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New Jersey: Autism mom works for "neuro-inclusive" housing for adults

Sept 13, 2023, NJ Family Special Needs: An Apartment Building For Neurodiverse Adults is Coming to This NJ Town
A Montville mom is working to provide inclusive housing for those who age out of school system services
Once a child who is neurodiverse ages out of the school system, parents often worry about how best they can support them in their adult years.
Karen Fluharty, a global retail real estate executive, faced that with her own son, and so she formed Parents With a Plan, an organization to create best practices solutions for neurodiverse young adults. Part of her mission was to provide social and educational programs for when they turn 21, and now a new neuro-inclusive apartment building will bring them one step closer to independence….

The plan has already gotten its approval from the Red Bank Zoning Board and should open in mid-2025.

“The greatest worry for any parent of a neurodiverse child is ‘What will happen when I can’t be there?” says Fluharty, who is from Montville. “THRIVE Red Bank will be the first of our initiatives to build capacity for innovative, person-centered solutions and create a marketplace of supportive housing options.”

One in 34 individuals in New Jersey is diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and the state is well-known for having many programs for school-age children. But many of those children fall off the “services cliff” when supports are drastically diminished at age 21, Fluharty said. Currently, 3 in 4 of these autistic adults live with a family member, many of whom are now aging themselves.

THRIVE will have support and services from the Rutgers Center for Adult Autism Services. Residents living there will benefit from the expertise of senior clinical faculty from Rutgers as well as highly trained clinical staff. The program also provides opportunities for university students from a variety of academic disciplines to receive hands-on training and intensive supervision.

"The lack of acceptable housing options for neurodivergent people in New Jersey and throughout the U.S. represented a crisis for many adults and their families. Red Bank has an opportunity to be a leader in showing the world what a model compassionate, supportive community can look like,” says Christopher Manente, PhD, BCBA, founding executive director of RCAAS. “THRIVE will provide an example of a high-quality neuro-inclusive supporting housing property that demonstrates how everyone can succeed if given the right support and opportunities while simultaneously providing excellent hands-on training for university students towards the creation of a workforce of highly trained support staff to address the broader crisis for this population. In this way, THRIVE will provide a foundation for future residential communities throughout New Jersey and far beyond.”

Red Bank was chosen as the site for the building because of its walkability and access to shopping, recreation, education and entertainment. There are opportunities for employment and access to public transportation, which is especially important for adults who are unable to drive.


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